August 8, 2018

Dear friends,
It’s peach season, that time of year when I used to feel like Forest Gump with a box of chocolates. With peaches, I never knew what I was getting. They could be candy-sweet and dripping with juice or as dry and tasteless as cotton.

Then I wised up. Here’s how to buy a juicy, sweet peach rather than a dry, flavorless one: Check its provenance. The closer to home the peach was grown, the better the chance it’s a good one. That’s because peaches soften but do not ripen after they are picked. Fruit that has far to travel usually is picked while still firm and unripe, to cut down on bruising on the journey.

There are exceptions. Some California growers are shipping a relatively new hybrid developed there that arrives as sweet and juicy as peaches grown down the street. Many growers aren’t, though, so if my only option is a California peach, I usually buy one to test before committing.

If the peaches in the store are firm but from Georgia, North Carolina or even closer states, I will buy some and soften them on my kitchen counter. I am usually rewarded with juicy, sweet peaches. Of course, the best peaches are the ones from a nearby orchard, but the season is brief here in Ohio and we must make do.

This summer I have eaten my share of South Carolina and Georgia peaches while waiting for Ohio’s crop to ripen, which it is doing right now. I rarely make peach pies because of my promise to stay away from sugar, but this summer I yearned for one so badly that I caved — in a tiny sort of way. Instead of an entire, glorious pie I made muffin-sized peach-caramel upside-down pies.

I melted some sugar in a 4-inch skillet, stirred in cold butter and transferred two teaspoons to each of six muffin-tin cups. I arranged three peach slices over the caramel and topped them with rounds of puff pastry dough cut slightly larger than the holes of the muffin tins.

The pastry puffed and browned in the oven, while the peaches slumped into the caramel. When done, I inverted the baked tarts onto a tray, pounding on the muffin tin to loosen the pastry and caramel.

By the end of the day I had eaten three of them — not a whole pie, but still. Luckily, Tony ate the rest.


1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 peaches
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cold butter, in pieces

Butter a muffin tin with six cups. Roll pastry on a lightly floured surface to smooth out creases and enlarge the pastry slightly. With a biscuit cutter or drinking glass slightly larger than the muffin cups, cut out six rounds. Set aside.

Over medium-low heat, melt sugar in a small (preferably 4-inch) skillet or saucepan., stirring often. Do not allow sugar to burn. When the melted sugar is a rich amber color, stir in the cold butter bit by bit. Remove from heat. With a measuring spoon, place 2 teaspoons of the caramel in the bottom of each muffin tin cup.

Peel the peaches and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices Arrange 3 slices over the caramel in each cup. Place a pastry round over each cup, tucking in edges.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Cool 2 or 4 minutes, then invert the muffin tin onto a tray or cookie sheet, pounding the muffin cups to release the tarts. Transfer to dessert plates with a spatula. If desired, reheat remaining caramel and spoon more over the tarts. Makes 6 servings.

Question of the month:
Does anyone know where lamb can be bought at a reasonable price? Lamb is my favorite meat, but supermarket prices have soared. I would even consider buying a half or whole lamb from a farm (butchered and wrapped) if the price isn’t too ridiculous (often the case at boutique farms). Thanks for any advice.

What I cooked last week:
Skinny eggplants roasted with sweet soy sauce; pan-grilled strip steak with blue cheese crumbles, French potato salad with garlic and mint; cantaloupe with prosciutto, cherry tomato clafoutis; lettuce-wrap chicken tacos with avocado and cucumber; beef stir fry with zucchini and yellow peppers; caramel peach upside-down tarts.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Curry noodles with chicken and vegetables at House of Hunan; chili dogs with mustard and onion from the Sassy Dog cart at Copley Circle; a beef turnover (fatayer), kibbee with homemade yogurt and mujadara (lentils and caramelized onions) at the Lebanese Festival at Our Lady of the Cedars Maronite Catholic Church in Fairlawn; an appetizer sampler of beef samosa, vegetable pakoras, sliced sausage and chicken skewers, and potato-stuffed naan bread at Jaipur Junction in Hudson (excellent).

From Trudy J.:
My grandmother used to make bean soup. She added summer savory to the pot and a big dollop of sour cream at the end. Delicious!

Dear Trudy:
A friend of Hungarian heritage also adds sour cream to her bean soup. It is indeed delicious.

From Janet B.:
I am looking forward to trying your recipe for green bean and potato soup because we have a lot of beans from our garden. But how many pounds (approximately) is 2 quarts of beans? Thanks very much.

Dear Janet:
One quart of green beans equals about one pound. While looking up the answer in my well-thumbed copy of “The Victory Garden Cookbook” by Marian Morash, I saw that she has a recipe for shell bean and green bean soup with pistou. So I guess I didn’t invent THAT idea, either.

From Pat S.:
I’ve been following your laments about an over-abundance of garden green beans. I have the same dilemma in summer. Here’s a very tasty and healthy recipe originally from Food Network Kitchen. I’ve adapted it by adding ginger and scallions.

1 1/2 cups basmati rice
1 1/2 lbs. green beans, trimmed
4 scallions, cut in 2-inch pieces
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 small half-sour pickle, finely chopped
2 tsp. Asian chili paste such as sambal oelek
2 tsp,. grated fresh ginger
1 cup low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. dry sherry or rice vinegar
2 tsp. cornstarch

Cook rice according to package directions. Keep warm.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Toss beans with 1 1/2 tbsp. of the oil and the sugar on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil 4 minutes. Stir, adding in scallions. Continue to broil for 4 to 5 minutes, until beans are tender and charred.

Heat remaining 1 1/2 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add turkey and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 3 minutes Add garlic, pickle, chili paste and ginger and cook about 3 minutes more.

Whisk chicken broth with soy sauce, sherry and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add the beans and scallions to the skillet with the turkey, stirring 1 minute. Add the soy sauce mixture and cook, stirring until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Serve with the rice. Makes 4 servings.

Dear Pat:
Thanks. This should use up Tony’s remaining crop of green beans.

From Michele B.:
I will definitely try the ham and bean soup with pesto. It looks delicious. My grandmother made a ham and bean soup with “dumplings” — basically dough boiled in the broth. We called it “pot pie.” Someone once told me it was a Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. I’ve only tried it twice. Her recipe gave no amounts and no recipe for the dumplings. I came close the second time. I don’t understand when people won’t share their recipes.

Dear Michele:
I can help with that recipe. My grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch and made “pot pie” often. I once printed directions in Recipe Roundup in the Beacon Journal. Readers said the soup part was made with chicken or ham hocks, potatoes and onions, but there’s no reason the noodles wouldn’t work in green bean soup.

4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. butter
1 egg
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk

Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut in butter. Make a well (depression) in the flour and break the egg into the well. With a fork, stir flour into the egg a little at a time while gradually adding enough milk to make a soft dough.

Dust dough with flour and roll out as thin as possible. With a sharp knife, cut into 1 1/2-inch squares. Drop the dough squares into soup one by one and stir to prevent them from sticking together. Simmer 12 to 15 minutes or until noodles are tender.


August 1, 2018

Dear friends,
The summer soup I made last week was no big deal but it was everything. It was good old green bean and potato soup, but elevated to the sublime.

In the summers of my childhood and probably yours, too, the big soup pot came out when green beans were in season. They were called string beans or snap beans then, and they were the basis of at least one gigantic, cheap meal in mid summer. My mother would toss a ham bone, handfulls of green beans and cubed potatoes into a pot and boil everything until the meagre shreds of ham fell from the bone and the vegetables were soft. Really soft. We ate the soup with buttered bread.

I was reminded of the meal after I asked for ways to use up the boatload of green beans Tony grew. I got a few recipes for bean salads and side dishes, a recommendation to roast the beans (which I do) and two huzzahs for canned dilly beans. But the suggestion that stuck with me was the one for green beans, potatoes and ham. Could I elevate it enough to appeal to more sophisticated tastes?

I started by making a rich stock with a meaty ham bone (I got mine at Honey Baked Ham). I simmered the bone for about three hours, until the broth had lots of flavor. Already I was way ahead of my mother’s soup. Then I cut the beans and potatoes into smaller pieces than Mom did, added salt, and gently simmered them in the stock just until the potatoes were tender — about an hour less than my mother did.

The soup already tasted pretty good, but the capper was a spoonful of pesto stirred into each bowlful. This is how the French amp up the flavor of their Provencal vegetable soup, pistou. The French version of pesto does not include Parmesan cheese, but I like the umami undertone the cheese contributes. The garlic, basil and olive oil in the pesto melt into the soup and infuse every spoonful with bright Mediterranean flavors.

Those who have made green bean and potato soup before won’t need a recipe, although I measured ingredients in order to provide one. If you intend to wing it remember three things:
1. Buy a really meaty ham bone. Mine had plenty of meat on it after I sliced off at least a pound for sandwiches and to add to the soup at the end.
2. Simmer the meaty bone a long time (about 3 hours) to make a rich stock for the soup.
3. Cut the vegetables into fairly uniform 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces and use enough to provide a good ratio of vegetables to broth — in other words, more vegetables than our moms used.

This is what I call a great way to use up green beans.


1 very meaty ham bone
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 lbs. peeled potatoes, diced in 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 quarts (about) fresh green beans, washed, trimmed and cut into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp. salt
Basil pesto (preferably homemade)

Cut excess meat from ham bone, leaving at least a cup or two on the bone to flavor the broth (just eyeball it). Dice enough of the ham cut from the bone to equal 1 1/2 cups, reserving remaining ham for other uses.

Place meaty ham bone in a 2-gallon soup pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, partially cover and adjust heat until it gently simmers. Simmer for about 3 hours, adding a quart of water midway through if necessary, to keep pot about three-fourths full. Taste broth for richess after three hours and if satisfied, remove ham bone. You should have about 3 quarts of broth (a 2-gallon pot will be not quite half full).

Add potatoes to pot and simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, remove meat from the ham bone. Add beans and salt to the soup. Return ham-bone meat to the pot. Stir in reserved cubed ham. Simmer until the beans are tender and the flavors have blended, about 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Ladle soup into bowls. Stir a rounded teaspoon of pesto into each bowlful. Makes about 10 servings.

From Nancy B.:
I have had a plethora of green beans in years past. I mean garbage bags of them. I donated them to the Food Bank and/or Good Samaritan Hunger Center.

From Fran S.:
Dilled green beans are easy to put up and last a long time. Occasionally I will use them as appetizers with cream cheese and dried beef. Roll them up and slice. Everyone loves them.

From Chris M.:
I like green beans roasted with halved garlic cloves and lemon slices, or simply with a handful of fresh-grated Parmesan cheese tossed on at the end of roasting. And I still enjoy green beans almandine.

From William B.:
For about a peck of green beans, saute about 2 cups of diced onion in about 1/2 cup olive oil until wilted. Stir in 3 or 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic, about 3 cups chopped fresh super-ripe tomatoes and about 1/2 bunch chopped parsley. Cook until the tomatoes start to soften. Dump in your washed and snapped green beans and stir well. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook until very tender (maybe 1 to 2 hours). Salt and pepper to taste. Great way to use up beans you already cooked and have leftover. Dress beans with a final drizzle of olive oil before serving.

From Kathy:
I make a Caprese-style salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinaigrette, basil and green beans cooked until fork tender. You can eat it warm if you can’t wait but chilled is good, too.

From Joy:
I make Italian green beans with bacon, a fairlly quick recipe I got from “Better Homes & Gardens Farmers Market Cookbook.” Four slices of bacon are crisped in a skillet and most of the drippings are poured off. Butter is added along wth sliced carrots, cut and parboiled green beans and a clove of chopped garlic, and sauteed until the vegetables are al dente. Ground pepper and the reserved bacon, crumbled, are added to serve.

Two miniature zucchinis have finally sprouted in my garden. Should I split and grill them with a lashing of sweet soy sauce or wait until they get bigger and stuff them?

If you have been luckier than I have, or know where to get an armload of the vegetables, you may want to bring a fabulous zucchini dish or two to the Seville Farm Market on Aug. 11. That’s when this year’s Zucchinni Smackdown will take place.

There’s no need to pre-register. Just take your sweet or savory zucchini dish, along with the recipe, to Maria Stanhope Park in Seville by 10 a.m. that Saturday. Please make it good, because I’ll be sampling the entries this year. Prizes will be awarded in three categories: best savory dish, best sweet dish, and biggest zucchini. Get cooking.

What I cooked last week:
Butter-fried eggs with horseradish; cheeseburger patties on romaine leaves with horseradish pickles and a side of grapes; Genghis Khan (grilled Japanese thin-sliced marinated lamb), boiled corn on the cob, sweet potatoes; hummus with jicama dippers; salade Nicoise with gin and tonics; Caesar salad and shrimp cocktail; green beans, ham and potato soup with pistou; chocolate pudding.

What I ate out last week:
Just-picked corn, a gorgeous salad of home-grown lettuces, nasturtiums and other goodies, sliced cucumbers in a luscious creamy dill dressing and home-grown strawberries (!) at the home of friends, who harvested the vegetables and fruit just before we ate. Perfect.

From V.H.:
I made a muffin microwave recipe in five mugs — three solid black, two mostly white, all of them the same size. I lined up the mugs and added all of the ingredients in each and microwaved them separately. The muffins in the white mugs were 1 1/2 inches taller than the ones in the black mugs. I didn’t realize the color of the mug would make such a difference.

Dear V.H.:
I doubt it was the color. The cups may be the same size but not the same thickness or composition. This was a maddening problem for me when writing my book. I finally used just one type of mug — a 12-ounce Fiesta. Then I discovered I had to account for WHERE in the oven I placed the mug. Center placement does not deliver the same cooking power as off-center placement does. And on and on. The bottom line is that microwaving is an inexact science.

July 25, 2018

Dear friends,
I turned on my oven during that god-awful sweat fest last week (I don’t have central air) and it turned out to be worth it. In my mid-summer hunger for all things corn, I came up with a recipe for tamale pie made with a Cuban picadillo filling and a jalapeno-spiked cornmeal crust that for once was more biscuit than cake.

I can still taste it, and that isn’t just the Tums talking. The casserole was seriously delicious, and walked that fine line between comforting and hip. Picadillo, as you may or may not know, is a spicy version of ground beef hash that’s practically the national dish of Cuba. It is usually served au naturale with black beans and rice. I gave it a twist by blanketing it with a jalapeno-cornmeal crust. The bare bones of the two recipes are from “A Taste of Cuba” by Linette Creen.

I thought about putting some first-of-the-season corn in the crust, but I had already scarfed down the half-dozen ears I bought at Seiberling Farm in Norton. You can add a half cup of kernels if you want. Likewise, you may use fresh or pickled jalapeños or omit them from the crust, but I would recommend buying green olives for the filling if you have none on hand. They add a salty acidity that cuts right through the fattiness of the meat.

This is a modest meal that can be assembled in 15 minutes. In the half-hour or so it took to bake, I repaired to the patio with a gin and tonic. You may substitute a mojito if you want.


3 tbsp. olive oil
1 packet Sazon Goya or 1 tsp. ground annatto (achiote) or turmeric
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/4 lbs. lean ground beef
1 can (14.5 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup halved pimiento-stuffed green olives
Salt, pepper to taste

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil and when warm, stir in Sazon Goya, annatto or turmeric. When the oil is hot, add onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté until onion is limp. Stir in cayenne and cumin.

Increase heat to medium-high. Add ground beef, breaking it up and cooking until it is no longer pink. Chop the canned tomatoes and add them along with the juice. Partially cover pan, reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Most of liquid should be gone. If not, simmer uncovered until about a half-cup of liquid remains. Stir in olives and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cornmeal crust:
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tbsp. white all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. milk
1 egg
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. minced fresh or pickled jalapeno

Stir together cornmeal, flour, salt, sugar and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a measuring cup, combine milk, egg and olive oil and beat with a fork. Pour over the cornmeal mixture and stir just until smooth. Stir in the jalapeños.

To assemble, spoon meat mixture into a lightly greased, 2-quart casserole. Spread cornmeal batter evenly over meat. Bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Makes 4 servings.

I didn’t know Jonathan Gold well, but I admired his writing tremendously. It was as intricate and delightful as a Mozart symphony, and made the rest of us look like hacks in comparison.

Gold, the only food critic to win the Pulitzer Prize, died Saturday after a lightning-swift bout of pancreatic cancer. He was just 57.

Gold’s restaurant reviews in the Los Angeles Times, Gourmet magazine and LA Weekly were poetic commentaries on life, class and culture as well as food. I reveled in the way he could turn a phrase or sum up a restaurant or a certain L.A. lifestyle in one or two sentences, like this:

“Most great cooking is about deliciousness. (Chef Jordan) Kahn’s is about the intersection of perception and space.”

and this:
“…Spago’s cooking flickers around the edges of memory and desire while never quite succumbing to them.”

and this:
“Lucques is what you might think of as an aspirational restaurant, a place that sculpts Southern California life into not what it is, but what it should be. Even if you spend an eccentric amount of time at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, your stone fruit salad with ricotta salata is never going to look like Suzanne Goin’s does, partly because you don’t know how to cut the nectarines in precisely the right way, but also because you are never going to persuade the farmer to give you her very best box of nectarines.”

For a treat, search out some of Gold’s reviews and settle in for the symphony.

What I cooked last week:
Cold tomato soup with mojo shrimp; brined, grilled pork chops, grilled corn; open-faced sloppy Joes on buttered, toasted ciabatta buns; avocado and fried egg on toast; tamale pie.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
A double cheeseburger with sautéed onions at Whattaburger in Wadsworth; roast pear and blue cheese flatbread, taco lettuce wraps with chicken at the Cheesecake Factory in Legacy Village; gyoza dumplings at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo; a cheeseburger and fries from Swenson’s.

From Gillie Aked, Bridgnorth, UK:
I regularly by XL eggs (local new-laid from farmers market) to make scrambled eggs and omelettes, as it doesn’t matter about size. Also, they make great hard-boiled eggs for salads and egg mayonnaise (hard-cooked in American!). With a little care they can be cooked so that the centres are just slightly runny which is perfect halved on a salad. I also use the whites for meringue and the yolks for mayonnaise, just adjusting the proportions of sugar to egg white and oil to yolk. The only thing I don’t use them for is cake baking where the size really does matter.

I love reading your column — I feel quite nostalgic for the ten years I spent living in Hudson and buying the Beacon Journal every day, devouring the cooking pages so I could “cook American” like my friends. I have Hudson friends coming to stay soon with me in the UK — in the rural county of Shropshire where we still have a weekly cattle auction — and shall take great delight in introducing them to one of our five local butchers where the meat hangs in the window, the hams and cold meats are all home-cooked, and the pies and pasties are baked on the premises. Thank you for keeping my memories going.

Dear Gillie:
Your note is so lyrical I have to share all of it. Now I am nostalgic for rural England, where I spent some of my happiest vacations with my mother. Thanks for writing.

From Debbie:
I do not have the recipe for Jack Horner’s pancakes but I have attached a family favorite that I have been making for 40 years. I add blueberries when they are readily available. The batter also makes great crepes — just thin by adding additional milk and pour into a crepe pan. I may purchase the club soda your reader remembered and try it rather than milk. By the way, I use Rumford Baking Powder, which makes very light pancakes.

1 1/4 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 tbsp. oil
1 cup milk (or more)

Blend dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add egg, oil and 1 cup milk. Mix until smooth. Add more milk if batter is too thick.

Portion batter onto a preheated griddle or skillet brushed with oil. Flip when bubbles begin to appear or bottom appears to be golden brown. Continue cooking until bottom is golden brown. Makes 16 4-inch pancakes.

Dear Debbie:
I’m sorry we can’t find Jack Horner’s recipe, but any pancake is a winner in my book. Thanks.

July 18, 2018

Dear friends,
The tomatoes I planted in May and lovingly tended with hoe and Miracle-Gro are green and getting bigger. I pray for a ripe one before summer ends. A row of eggplants, pollenated by hand with a Q-tip, have grudgingly produced three little blue-black nubs that may or may not flourish. The beets and carrots are anyone’s guess, and the zucchinis so far are non-starters.

Meanwhile, a handful of seeds Tony raked into the soil and ignored are growing wildly, producing green beans by the double handful. Last weekend we harvested more beans than I will use in a month, and we didn’t even finish picking the row.

The garden gods have a sense of humor.

I’m trying to be a good sport about Tony’s cache of green beans, but I’m annoyed every time I open the refrigerator. I thought at first we’d eat them quickly and be done with them, but there are far too many.

So far we’ve dipped them into hummus and had stir-fried green beans in Szechuan sauce as a side dish with steak. I don’t like frozen or canned green beans, so those options are out. Any other ideas? I’m desperate.

Sunday I figured I’d dream up a palatable green bean salad — an antidote to the ubiquitous version with sweet-and-sour dressing — and came up with a dish that should be good for a few quarts. It features just-tender beans shocked bright-green with cold water and glossed with a sesame oil-garlic dressing. The dressing is simple because who wants to be in the kitchen when it’s so hot?

I cribbed the dressing from a New York Times recipe for cucumbers, and it goes very well with the beans. A word about those beans — like Julia Child, I am not a fan of crunchy green beans. While for most recipes they should not be cooked until stewed and limp, neither should they be whisked from the fire before the last bit of rawness alchemizes into sugar. Half-raw green beans are nasty.

While I wait for my garden to grow, I will be eating a lot of this salad and hoping someone sends me some more flavorful, fresh-tasting green bean recipes. Please hurry.


1 lb. fresh green beans
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. Canola or olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Trim and wash beans. Cook in a big pot of boiling water until no raw taste remains, about 5 minutes. Drain in a sieve and refresh under very cold tap water to cool the beans and intensify their color. Drain well.

While the beans cook, combine the remaining ingredients (except sesame seeds) in a small lidded jar. Shake well. Transfer the beans to a 1-gallon zipper-lock plastic bag. Add dressing and turn to coat the beans. Refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight, turning occasionally.

Transfer beans and dressing to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and toss. Makes 6 servings.

What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled hot dogs, corn off the cob with butter, sea salt and esplette; pesto; Chinese smashed cucumbers with sesame-garlic dressing, grilled strip steaks with wine and blue cheese sauce, stir-fried green beans, dirty martini; green bean salad with spicy sesame dressing; over-hard eggs, fried tomato, sliced avocado and a peach.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
McDonald’s cheeseburger Happy Meal with fries; a beef cheek taco and a taco al pastor at Mexico City Margarita Bar and Grill in Akron’s North Hill; Subway spicy Italian half sub; pulled pork, coleslaw and collard greens at City Barbecue in Fairlawn; a slice of pineapple and ham pizza (Tony’s turn) from Rizzi’s in Copley.

From Beth B.:
You wondered who buys extra-large eggs. Among the buyers are devotees of Ina Garten’s recipes, which is practically everyone I know, because extra-large eggs are all she specifies. It’s kind of a pain in the butt because you end up with more extra-large eggs than you need and have to make room for two cartons in the fridge. So I hard-cook them and eat them for snacks.

Dear Beth:
Thanks to you and Ellen for pointing that out. Mystery solved. But what about those jumbo eggs? Read on.

From Noreen:
My husband likes a jumbo hard-boiled egg with his breakfast. I buy them from a local farmer, and thankfully, it’s one of the few things he can make himself. He makes several at a time.

I have a question about cabbage. What is the correct way to wash it when it will be used for coleslaw?

Dear Noreen:
Although he is gamely trying, your husband is barely making a dent in the world’s jumbo egg production. I will continue searching for answers to the mystery of who buys them and for what.

To clean cabbage for coleslaw or any other use, remove the outer layer of leaves and if the next layer is pristine, wash it under cool, running water and pat dry. If the next layer is not pristine, remove that, too, and then wash. Individual leaf-washing is not necessary because cabbage is so tightly packed that dirt and germs cannot travel far beyond the surface.

From LJR:
Do you have a recipe for a good dipping sauce for fried dumplings?

Dear LJR:
Yes, many of them. I usually just ad lib, but I dug up one I’ve been using for years for one of my favorite appetizers, Vietnamese pork in lettuce leaves. The recipe is so good I’m sharing the whole thing for those who don’t already have it in their files.

1 lb. ground pork
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 minced green onion, including top
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Pinch of sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
20 Bibb lettuce leaves
Fresh mint leaves

In bowl, combine all ingredients except lettuce and mint leaves. Mix gently but thoroughly with fingertips and form into 20 sausage-shaped logs about
three inches long and one-half inch thick. Chill.

Thread meat on bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water, two pieces of meat per skewer. Grill on a charcoal grill or broil until cooked through.

To serve, slide pork logs off skewers and ask guests to place a pork log and two mint leaves in a Bibb lettuce leaf. Wrap to form a neat packet, and dip
into the sauce. Serves six as an appetizer, four as a main course.

Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. minced fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients and serve in small bowls.

July 11, 2018

Dear friends,
The berries made me do it. I try to avoid desserts, but the black raspberries in my wild patch between the garage and the garden are so prolific this summer I couldn’t resist making a pie.

When I break my no-dessert rule, I tend to do it with flair. But homemade raspberry pie is so spectacular in itself that no flair needed — just crust, berries, sugar, flour and salt. Anything else would be gilding the lily.

I got most of my pie-making mistakes out of the way early in my career so that now I can turn out a gorgeous pie with no sweat. Believe me, it took a lot of pies to reach this point, so I’ll share some of my hard-earned tips to make pie-baking a snap for you, too.

I usually make pies without consulting a recipe, but I urge you to do as I say, not as I do. For starters, fruits require varying amounts of sugar and thickener (flour, cornstarch, instant tapioca) depending on the type of fruit and how ripe it is. Riper means sweeter, so less sugar is needed. And blueberries, for example, are juicier than raspberries and require way more thickener. Unless you can memorize the proportions for each fruit, at least glance at a recipe when you make a fruit pie.

I’m supplying a basic, all-purpose recipe for a berry pie, but by “berry” I mean raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry and other fairly dry berries. Not strawberries, elderberries or blueberries.

Then there’s the dough. Its composition is a subject that could fill a couple of columns — more if you take a deep dive into chemistry. Whether to add butter for flavor, lard for extreme flakiness or a combination, or stick with solid vegetable shortening because it is handy, are legitimate questions I won’t explore today. Suffice it to say I usually use shortening because it’s always in my refrigerator.…unless I want to impress, then I use lard. Unless I’m making a tart crust (pate brisee), when I use butter.

I am providing basic recipes for a food-processor pie dough and handmade pie dough. Generally, dough that is made by hand with a pastry blender will produce a pie crust that is more tender and flaky than processor-made dough. However, if you freeze the ingredients (including flour) you can increase the quality of processor dough.

I am also sharing a recipe I developed once to mimic the texture of the ultra-tender, almost cookie-like crust of the fabulous pies at Waterloo Restaurant in Akron.

To boil all this down:
!. Chill the dough ingredients.
2. Do not knead and squeeze the dough except for the processor dough below.
4. Look up the correct amount of thickener for the type of fruit you use.
5. Add sugar to taste to the filling.
6. Don’t forget a pinch of salt.
7. For the wow factor, brush the top crust with milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar so the finished pie glistens.

This recipe is from “The Pie and Pastry Bible” by Rose Levy Beranbaum:

(For a 2-crust, 9-inch pie)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
14 tbsp. cold solid vegetable shortening (3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp.)
9 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a zip-lock plastic bag and place in freezer. Cut shortening into small cubes (about 3/4 inch), wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 30 minutes. This is easier if you use shortening sold in sticks.

Place the flour-salt mixture in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse to combine. Add the frozen shortening and pulse until the shortening is the size of small lima beans. (Toss with a fork to see better.)

Add ice water and pulse until most of the shortening is the size of small peas, some a little larger. Divide the mixture between two gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bags (reuse the one in which the flour was chilled). Holding both sides of the bag opening with your fingers, knead the dough through the plastic by alternately pressing it with your fingers and the heels of your hands until the mixture holds together in one piece and feels slightly stretchy when pulled.

The dough will be very flaky, but if you adore flakiness, fold the dough in thirds like a business letter and roll with a rolling pin between two sheets of plastic wrap; cover and chill briefly if dough begins to soften. Repeat with second half of dough.

Wrap each piece of dough with plastic wrap and flatten into chubby disks. Refrigerate at least 45 minutes or preferably overnight. Roll as described in the recipe below.

This recipe is from “Pies & Pastries” by Janet Pittman:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup chilled solid vegetable shortening
7 to 8 tbsp. water

Stir flour and salt together in a medium bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are the size of small peas. Add 7 tablespoons of water while tossing with a fork. If dry crumbs remain in bottom of bowl, add 1 more tablespoon water and toss.

Gather dough in your hands and gently shape into two flat balls. With a floured rolling pin, roll dough on a lightly floured surface into two circles about 3 inches larger than the inside diameter of the pie pan (12 inches for a 9-inch pie pan). Continue according to the directions below for Berry Pie.

This is my recipe:
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chilled lard
2 tbsp. cold butter
1 egg
1/4 cup milk

Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add lard and butter in chunks. With a pastry blender, cut fats into flour until bits are about the size of peas.

Beat egg and milk together. Drizzle over flour mixture, tossing with a fork. Gather into a ball. Wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Divide dough in half. On a well-floured board, roll each portion of dough into a 12-inch circle. Continue according to directions below for Berry Pie.


Pastry for a 2-crust pie
4 cups fresh raspberries or blackberries
1 cup sugar or to taste
(or 1/2 cup Splenda granulated and 2 tbsp. sugar)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
Sugar for sprinkling

Roll dough into 2 12-inch disks. Roll one of the disks loosely onto your rolling pin and unroll into a 9-inch pie pan. Gently ease dough into the bottom and up and over the sides without stretching. Allow dough to overhang the rim.

In a medium bowl, combine berries, sugar, flour and salt. Mix by gently turning over the ingredients with your hands or a spoon. Transfer to the pastry-lined pie pan. Cut decorative slits in the second disk of pastry. Loosely roll onto your rolling pin and unroll over filling. Center the dough disk and turn the edges of the top and bottom disks under together to form a rim slightly larger than the pie pan. Decoratively crimp (press) the dough rim with your fingers or a fork to seal the top and bottom disks together.

Brush the top pastry with milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Cover the crimped edges all the way around with a strip of foil. Bake in a preheated, 375-degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 20 to 30 minutes longer, or until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbly. Cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into 6 to 8 wedges.
I serve the warm pie in bowls, splashed with cold milk.

What I cooked last week:
Two hard-fried eggs on crunchy seeded toast with pesto and blue cheese; barbecued ribs; an almost sugar-free black raspberry pie; hummus and crudities; cold tomato soup with dill, mojo sautéed shrimp.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Rotisserie chicken, sautéed kale and cornbread from Boston Market; pepperoni pizza from Rizzi’s in Copley.

From Jan C.:
I am a true lover of good steak tartare, which is extremely hard to find in the Akron or Canton area. We were at Ken Stewart’s Lodge last week for a birthday celebration and, behold, there it was on the menu. It was absolutely perfect and delicious. My hubby and I split one portion of the table-side Caesar, which was quite large. He had steak and frites which came with a whole roasted head of garlic.

True heaven. If I had a wish for a last meal, this would be it. Caesar, steak tartare and an extra-dry vodka martini with anchovy or blue cheese olives.

Dear Jan:
There’s a reason they became classics, right? I used to like steak tartare and then carpaccio, and long ago I was crazy about Caesar salad. I think it’s time to resurrect the recipes.

From Nancy S.:
You probably can’t answer this recipe question, but here goes. I still miss Jack Horner’s pancakes. The recipe was never divulged as far as I know, but would you speculate on which type of recipe (buttermilk or no, baking powder, baking soda, etc.) so I can experiment in order to recreate them?

I thought I remembered a waitress there said club soda was one of the ingredients but it couldn’t have been too expensive a recipe to make, as they made a lot of pancakes for breakfast. Thanks for any help you can provide.

Dear Nancy:
I never had the pancakes at the classic Akron restaurant, so I can’t help you. Maybe someone reading this was a cook or waitress at Jack Horner’s and can provide a clue.

From Rachel A.:
The hubs and I were SO excited to see that you’d tried Pots & Pans. How was it? We’ve been on the lookout for island fare locally and just learned of P&P this week, and have plans to stop by in the next few days.

The best we’ve found to date is actually a quick day trip away, at Ena’s Caribbean Kitchen in the Linden neighborhood on the east side of Columbus. It was featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. My guy had the curry goat with rice and beans and fried plantains. I had the Sunday brunch special of shrimp and grits, and let me tell you, I would WALK there on a Sunday just to get that meal again. The sauce was fabulous, the shrimp plump and perfectly cooked, and the Cheddar/smoked gouda grits were drool-worthy. We also shared a spicy Jamaican patty (like an empanada, with a spiced beef filling) while we waited. Two meals and snack came to $22 and we were both so, so satisfied.

If your readers are looking for an island taste on their local travels, please send them Miss Ena’s way.

Dear Rachel:
I’m a fan of Jamaican food, so I will try Ena’s Caribbean Kitchen. In return, I hope you and others try Pots & Pans in downtown Akron. I wasn’t thrilled with my food there — it needed more spice in the jerk and a better balance of seasonings overall. But I am hoping the food and fumbling service improve, because this family restaurant is the kind of place I like to support.

From Mary Ann:
Regarding your item about sauerkraut, my grandmother loved kraut, which she made herself as long as she could. She also developed a taste for canned kraut. But she missed both when she was put on a reduced-salt diet in her 80s.

She was smart and inventive about food. She rinsed the kraut many times with fresh water, wrung it out and rinsed some more. With that prep, her doctor approved and she was the most popular person at her assisted living facility. I do the same with green beans, which I love even from the can but which are way too high in salt.

Dear Mary Ann:
A lot of salt-sensitive people are mentally thanking your grandmother for the tip today.

July 4, 2018

Dear friends,
I began cooking because I love to eat. I was just a kid then watching Galloping Gourmet and yearning for coq au vin and homemade cake. I began really cooking in my 20s, to duplicate at home the dishes I read about or had eaten in restaurants in New York, Boston and Atlantic City.

Yes, I got around back then. Now, not as much, so I’m back to cooking dishes I’ve read about. I have waited and waited for a local Chinese restaurant to start serving the caramel duck and chicken that’s been so popular lately, but I might as well be wishing for a unicorn. It ain’t gonna happen in Akron, Ohio. So I made it myself.

My version is very different from the stir-fried dish born on the West Coast. It’s summer, so I fired up the grill and roast-smoked a whole spatchcocked chicken. Beforehand I dry-brined the bird with a mixture of salt and fresh ginger ground together in a food processor.

When the chicken was almost done, I made a caramel sauce spiked with orange juice and finished with more ginger. The base of the sauce is simply water and brown sugar, simmered until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens. The sauce is sweet and caramel-y, but not nearly as sweet as it sounds. Vinegar, ginger and orange juice, along with soy sauce and garlic, give the sauce dimension.

This chicken dish is gorgeous enough to serve to company, but delicious enough to want to hog all to yourself.


1 whole chicken, about 4 lbs.
3 tbsp. salt
A thumb-sized piece of peeled raw ginger
Vegetable oil

Remove and discard giblet package if included with chicken. With poultry shears or a sharp knife, cut chicken up the back, on both sides of the backbone. Discard backbone. Trim any excess skin and fat. Wash chicken and pat dry. Place skin side up on a baking sheet. Press down firmly to flatten the chicken.

Place salt in a food processor. Drop the ginger in chunks through the feed tube while the motor is running. When the ginger is thoroughly chopped, rub the ginger-salt mixture all over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

About 1 1/2 hours before dinner, build a medium-large charcoal fire in one-half of a grill. Or heat a gas grill to medium. Brush most of the salt and ginger from the chicken. Lightly rub oil all over chicken. When the coals have completely ashed over, place chicken on grill grid on the side opposite the coals, skin side down and meatiest part of the breast toward the coals.

Cover with the grill lid, leaving vents wide open. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the thigh registers 160 degrees, turning chicken once during cooking. Remove chicken from grill, cover with foil and keep warm while making the sauce.

Caramel-ginger sauce:
1 tbsp. oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
A 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 scallions, sliced thin

Sauté garlic in oil in an 8-inch skillet until softened. Add ginger. Remove from heat and carefully add water and brown sugar. Return to heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil gently without stirring until mixture is a dark honey brown.

Carefully add vinegar and stir to dissolve any crystals. Stir in orange juice and soy sauce. Boil until sauce thickens to a glaze. Pour over chicken on platter. Scatter scallions over sauce and chicken. Serve with rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This is the weekend I’m liquidating my cookbook collection and also selling a bunch of kitchen equipment, from juicers and a Spiraletti to a jerky gun and a table-top grill. Yes, this is a tawdry yard-sale ad, but I justify slipping it into my newsletter because there will be lots of stuff for foodies. Come browse or just chat from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 6-7-8, at 4183 Copley Road in Copley.

Hummus redux
I made a mistake in my hummus recipe of three weeks ago. You will need to add some of the warm cooking liquid to the beans when you first begin to puree them, or the bits of beans will just hug the sides of the processor bowl instead of coming together in a fluffy puree. More cooking liquid is added at the end to achieve the proper consistency, as instructed in the recipe.

What I cooked last week:
Egg sandwich with pesto; hummus with crudités, grilled ribeye steaks, roast carrots with sea salt; spaghetti with meat sauce and walnuts; two hard-fried eggs with pesto on a slice of seeded whole-grain bread; grill-smoked ginger chicken with ginger caramel sauce, steamed rice; avocado toast.

What I ate last week in/from restaurants:
A California roll from Sushi Katsu in Akron; cavatelli with sauce Bolognese and a tossed salad at Scarsella’s Restaurant in Youngstown; corn on the cob and two barbecued (baked?) pork ribs at the Ribs, White and Blue Festival in downtown Akron; a habanero pork taco, Buffalo cauliflower taco and chips with homemade salsa and guacamole at a friend’s party, catered by the fabulous Funky Truckeria food truck.


From Geoff:
Tell us about Tony’s new outdoor oven. Is it a smoker/grill combo?

How did City Barbecue’s pulled pork compare to my favorite, Old Carolina? I always had the opinion no one could top Old Carolina’s.

You asked for lunch recommendations. One of my favorite lunch spots in Fairlawn is the Bombay Grill. They have a daily lunch buffet at a reasonable price but I like ordering off the men and always start with a bowl of their Indian-spiced tomato soup which is, by far, the best tomato soup I’ve ever had.

Dear Geoff:
Now I HAVE to have some of that tomato soup. I tried Bombay Grill when it first opened in its new location at 117 Merz Blvd., but it hadn’t gotten its act together yet. I will try it again on your recommendation.

I thought City Barbecue’s pulled pork was better than any I’ve had anywhere at the restaurant’s VIP pre-opening party. A week later I visited the Fairlawn restaurant again and was disappointed. The pulled pork had lost that vinegar-swab juiciness. Still good, but maybe not quite up to Old Carolina standards.

Our old, handmade outdoor oven is by far the best thing Tony has dragged home from an auction. It is an oblong box of welded steel plates, about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide, with a good-sized oven above a fire box that can hold charcoal or wood. Tony made a chimney for it. So far I’ve used it once to make a roast chicken. I’m going to add a pizza stone and make some flat breads next. Tony is a great scavenger, which is one reason we’re having the yard sale. Stop by and I’ll show you the oven.

June 27, 2018

Dear friends,

Creating a recipe isn’t rocket science but it isn’t easy, either.  I practiced for about 15 to 20 years before I got good at it. That’s why I’m skeptical of all the food bloggers out there who present recipe after recipe with no attribution (but nice photos), giving the impression that they dreamed them up.


Not even professionals can keep the creative engine running week after week, and when I can’t, I tell you. This week’s delicious summer couscous salad recipe is from Ina Garten. I’m grateful that when the well runs dry I can turn to my food-writer friends, chefs and cookbook authors for inspiration. I’m happy to give them credit for the recipes I borrow. I hope others do the same.

Ina’s tuna couscous salad uses basic ingredients in just the right proportions to produce a dish that is greater than the sum of its parts. Slippery orbs of large Israeli couscous are tumbled together with canned tuna, olives, peppers, garlic and lemon and let sit while the pasta soaks up the flavors. Fresh basil, chopped scallions and more lemon are stirred in just before serving.

The flavors improve the longer it sits, Garten says. It was delicious the next day when I had some for breakfast. (Yes, I liked it that much.)

Garten prefers the flavor and quality of Italian canned tuna for this recipe. I found it in a supermarket for about $2.50 per can. If you can’t find it or balk at the price, domestic canned tuna in oil may be substituted.


Jane Snow.jpg

2 cups Israeli (large pearl) couscous (10 to 12 oz.)

2 (7-oz.) cans or jars Italian tuna, drained and flaked

2 tsp. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ cup good olive oil

3 tbsp. capers, drained

½ cup pitted, oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped (3 oz.)

½ cup jarred roasted red peppers, medium-diced (4 oz.)

2 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chopped scallions (6 to 8 scallions)

¼ cup julienned fresh basil leaves, lightly packed

Juice of ½ lemon

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add the couscous and reduce the heat to very low. Cover the pot and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the couscous is just tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, combine the tuna, lemon zest, 1/4 cup lemon juice, olive oil, capers, olives, red peppers, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1½ teaspoons black pepper in a large bowl. Pour the hot couscous into the mixture and stir well. Cover and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Just before serving, stir in the scallions, basil, juice of the ½ lemon, and up to 1 more teaspoon of salt. Taste for seasonings and serve warm or at room temperature. This can be made a day in advance. Bring back to room temperature and add the scallions, basil, and lemon juice before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

From “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust,” by Ina Garten.


What I cooked last week:
Couscous and tuna salad; grilled hamburgers; egg sandwich with pesto and fresh basil leaves; asparagus with vinaigrette.

What I ate last week in/from restaurants::
A chili-cheese dog at the Sub Station in Wadsworth; jerk chicken, rice with peas, cabbage stew and cucumber salad at Pots & Pans Jamaican restaurant in downtown Akron; chicken vlacki (Greek marinated chicken breast, feta, spinach, chopped cuke and tomato over a puffy flatbread) at Village Gardens in Cuyahoga Falls; banh mi, noodle salad, spicy fritters and more at an ethnic picnic with Akron Project Learn ESL students at Patterson Park in Akron; chicken under a brick over mashed potatoes, sautéed kale, asparagus and radishes at Wolfe Creek Tavern in Norton; barbecued ribs from the Winking Lizard in Fairlawn (meh).


From Betty:
I know sauerkraut is loaded with probiotics because it is fermented, but does canned sauerkraut have probiotics too or does the canning process eliminate them? Same with dill pickles.

Dear Betty:
Canned sauerkraut is still fermented, so it contains the probiotics — good bacteria —that enable the body to extract vitamins and minerals from the food more easily than raw or plain cooked cabbage does. A word of caution, though — sauerkraut is high in salt.

Probiotics may have other benefits, too, such as reducing gas, constipation and diarrhea, according to dietitian Regina Petre at

As for pickles, most are made with vinegar and are not a source of probiotics. Fermented pickles, made by soaking cucumbers in brine, do provide probiotics.

From Anne C.:
I have seen people request old recipes that appeared years ago in the Akron Beacon Journal from time to time. I don’t know if anyone has shared this information, but when using the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s website ( for other research, I came across an online database that is available to patrons — the Polly Paffilas Recipe Index.

This resource includes approximately 5,000 recipes that appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal from 1959 to 1980. Recipes may be searched by keyword, ingredient, name, category or date.

You will need a library card to access the information. From the library’s homepage, in the large “Databases” box, click on “databases A-Z.” Then find the recipe index alphabetically under “P.” After finding the title of the recipe you want, to access the recipe itself, you will need to contact the Special Collections Division at

Dear Anne:
Polly, one of my predecessors as food editor at the newspaper, was a cherished friend. I remember all of those recipes on index cards in overflowing file boxes in her closet. She took the files home when she retired because the newspaper was about to toss them away. Years later she gave them to me to preserve, and I donated them in her name to the library. Thank you for the reminder.

Saving recipes was easier when I was food editor. All of the recipes I printed from 1986 onward are available on the Beacon Journal database, also accessible through the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s website. From the home page, click on “Databases A-Z,” then on “Akron Beacon Journal.” After entering your library card number, you can search for recipes by name, ingredient, date or author, or a combination of any two.


June 20, 2018

Dear friends,

If you’re one of those people who likes the idea of Hawaiian poke but doesn’t relish eating a bowl of raw fish — or maybe just paying for that much fresh tuna — I have a recipe for you.

In order to make poke less of an occasional treat and more of an everyday meal at my house, I devised a recipe for grilled mahi-mahi poke. I know, the whole point of the popular Hawaiian dish is raw fish, and a way to dress it up that isn’t sushi. But poke has been messed with so much already that searing the fish shouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

Originally, poke (pronounced POH kay) was cubed raw fish (often tuna), green onions, hot pepper flakes and sesame oil. Simple. But as it spread to menus across the country, it picked up more and more ingredients, from cucumbers and jicama to tomatoes and black beans. It’s even made now with tofu and cooked chicken.

My version doesn’t go that far. I merely chopped up a handful of cooling ingredients I’d like to eat in a summer salad — cucumber, avocado, green onions, sweet bell pepper and, for a touch of sweetness and a nod to poke’s origins, fresh pineapple.

I tossed the salad with cubes of grilled mahi-mahi because it was on sale. Any firm fish that can be cooked on a skewer without falling apart (halibut comes to mind) will do. Shellfish — shrimp, scallops — would be a good choice, too.

This grilled poke would be a good choice for an appetizer at a summer dinner with friends because the salad portion can be made well in advance and the fish added at the last minute. Or serve it over rice for a main course, or on spears of lettuce as a cocktail nosh. The sesame vinaigrette may be mixed in big batches and used on all kinds of salads. It’s delicious.


Unknown copy.jpg

Sesame vinaigrette (recipe follows)

1 ripe avocado, diced in 1/4-inch pieces

1/2 of a medium cucumber, unpeeled, diced in 1/4-inch pieces

1/4 cup red bell pepper in 1/4-inch dice

1/2 cup sliced green onions

1/2 cup pineapple in 1/4-inch dice

Salt to taste

12 oz. mahi-mahi fillets, cut in 1-inch pieces

2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds

Build a charcoal fire or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Soak 4 long wooden skewers in warm water.

Make vinaigrette. Dice vegetables and pineapple and combine in a medium-large bowl. Add enough of the vinaigrette to gloss the ingredients, tossing gently. Set aside at room temperature.

Thread the fish cubes on the skewers. Brush with the sesame vinaigrette and season on all sides with salt. Grill the skewers over a fairly hot fire, turning once, until the edges begin to brown but the insides are barely cooked through. The fish will continue cooking off the heat.

Scrape fish from skewers into the salad. Drizzle with more vinaigrette and sprinkle with salt to taste. Toss. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to serve. May be spooned directly into bowls, served over steamed rice, or loaded onto spears of leaf lettuce. Makes 4 servings.


3 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 tbsp. sesame oil

2 1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. (or more to taste) chili pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar and shake well.


Local produce isn’t exactly flooding thmarket yet, but I’m nabbing as much as I can at farmers’ markets. So far I’ve bought wonderful lettuce, crisp radishes, green onions and small but sweet strawberries at the Countryside Farmers’ Markets in Highland Square and Howe Meadow near Peninsula. But the best local produce I had last week — at the lowest prices — came from a different kind of farm market. Tony and I revisited the County Line Produce Auction near Homerville for the first time in about a decade, and I intend to hang out there this summer.

Farmers, including many Amish, bring crate after crate of fruits and vegetables to sell. Most but not all of the produce on the auction side is local, but the items in the smaller lots sold on the retail side are all locally grown or baked. I got two quarts of strawberries for $3 each, a big bag of crisp, sweet leaf lettuce and a loaf of homemade bread. I regretted not snagging a big baggie of peas in their pods before I got in the checkout line. The line was long but moved quickly.

Anyone may bid on the produce on the auction side, which becomes more and more local as the summer progresses. Just be careful — a woman in line with me said she once bid on a watermelon (she thought) but actually bought a pallet of 19. She and a friend had to make two trips to get them all home.

County Line is at 11701 Jeffrey Rd., West Salem. Sales begin at 3 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and continue until everything is gone. The website is


What I cooked last week:
Pan-grilled chicken breasts with fresh pineapple sauce, steamed buttered asparagus, baked Japanese sweet potatoes; oven-fried garlic potatoes, stir-fried pork and vegetables with a honey, mustard and pomegranate molasses sauce; grilled rib steaks with horseradish sauce, tossed salad with pomegranate-mustard vinaigrette, parfaits of local strawberries with whipped topping; crab cakes with homemade tartar sauce, tossed salad with vinaigrette, watermelon; grill-smoked prime rib with horseradish sauce, buttered lima beans, garlic potatoes.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:
Pork and green chile burrito from Emi’s Tacqueria in Medina; Subway spicy Italian sub; Hawaiian pizza from Rizzi’s in Copley; a scrambled egg, piece of bacon and a biscuit at Bob Evans.


From Joy:
You probably received tons of responses to your latest questions (in The Mailbag two weeks ago) but here’s my contribution anyway. Keep in mind I live in the metro Vancouver, B.C., area, though.

  1. Your truffle oil loses its aroma and flavor after few months because there are no truffles in the truffle oil. What you are buying is olive oil mixed with compounds like 2,4 dithiapentane that mimic the taste of truffles. However, a site called “Eataly“ claims it sells truffle oil that actually contains real truffles:
  2. Your cornstarch-thickened pudding thins due to a process called syneresis (weeping).   This happens most often in puddings or pie fillings containing eggs or a high sugar concentration. I’ve seen it far too often myself with my lemon meringue pies and tarts until I finally switched to Clear Jel. Here’s a short article on how cornstarch works:
  3. I buy jumbo or extra large eggs if they are cheaper than large eggs, as I don’t have a problem using them in cooking or making egg dishes for breakfast/brunch as the difference in egg weight isn’t that much. I also use them in baking if volume measurements are the only choice, as volume is never exact anyway. In recipes where eggs are weighed, though, I’ll use any size egg on hand if I’m making a baked item where all ingredients are weighed.
  4. The food blogs I read weekly: Barry at Rock Recipes (from Newfoundland, with a good many Newfoundland recipes you’ve never heard of or believe exist); See Jane Cook; Mennonite Girls Can Cook; Not Quite Nigella; David Lebovitz; Love and Lemons; Grilling Companion; An Oregon Cottage; and more than a dozen more than Jane is too tired to type.
  5. Where’s a good place to eat in the Akron area? Well, I don’t live in the Akron area but Pots and Pans Jamaican Cuisine at 325 S. Main St. in Akron has a lot of positive reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor.

As for myself, my favorite places to eat lunch when I’m downtown Vancouver would be the Lebanese food truck near the Art Gallery and, a bit farther out from downtown, Peaceful Noodles on Broadway where the pan-fried dumplings and beef roll are awesome.

Dear Joy:
I think years ago, when I first bought truffle oil, it was flavored with real truffles. I haven’t tasted any like that in a long while, yet I keep buying it and hoping I’ll get a good one. Now thanks to you I know where to find the real stuff. Eataly sells 100 milliliters (about 3 ounces) of Urbani white truffle oil for $19.80.

As for my cornstarch pudding returning to its liquid state overnight in the refrigerator, I think the article you referenced tapped into the real problem — stirring the pudding after it reaches 95 degrees and begins to thicken. According to the article, stirring at that point breaks the starch network that sets and traps the liquid, freeing it to return to its liquid state. Geez. Maybe Clear Jell IS the answer.

Speaking of awesome, thanks for all of your research. The next time I am in Vancouver, one of my favorite cities, I will head directly to Peaceful Noodles for some dumplings.

June 12, 2018

Dear friends,

Peaches and blue cheese: The idea is intriguing. That’s what I thought when I saw a recipe for peach and blue cheese salad in “Michael Symon’s Carnivore.” I imagined the crunch of the raw Marcona almonds contrasted with the soft sweetness of the peaches, reined in with the bite of vinaigrette and pungent blue cheese.

The reality was less than ideal because of a couple of hiccups in the recipe, but ultimately I turned it into a pretty interesting side dish for a grilled steak. In his cookbook, Symon writes that he spoons the salad right on top of rib steaks. I dunno about that (the peach chunks alone would obliterate the steak), but served alongside it was pretty good.

I had to seriously decrease the amount of dressing on the salad (Symon called for using the entire batch) because of the juiciness of the warmed peaches. I also gave up on warming the peaches on a grill, because the natural sugars in the fruit caused them to stick like crazy to the metal. I think the oven temp of 250 for the alternate peach-cooking method was a mistake, so I have upped it to 450 degrees for the two minutes of warming. Other than that…

Seriously, other than that, the salad is a winner. But next time, the Cleveland chef might want to try the recipes he sells under his name.



1 garlic clove, minced

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. honey

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

6 firm peaches, pitted and quartered

½ cup raw Marcona almonds

2 cups arugula

1 cup crumbled blue cheese

Kosher salt

Heat a charcoal or gas grill to high or preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, mustard, honey, and the ¼ cup olive oil. Brush the peach quarters with olive oil. Grill on a well-oiled grid for 1 minute per side, or warm them in the oven for 2 minutes.

Gently combine the warm peaches, almonds, arugula, and blue cheese in a large bowl. Add just enough dressing to moisten; toss to combine. Season with salt to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

From “Michael Symon’s Carnivore: 120 Recipes for Meat Lovers” by Michael Symon and Douglas Trattner.


Regular whole raw almonds may be substituted for the Marcona almonds in the salad recipe above. But if you like almonds, Marconas are worth seeking out. The first time I tasted them was at a farmer’s market in Spain. I didn’t know they were special when I bought a bag of the fat, skinless almonds.

Over the next few days, I became addicted to the almonds. They have the sharp, clean crunch of a macadamia and a ripe, full almond flavor. They are one of the few nuts I’ve had that are delicious raw.


What I cooked last week:

Meatloaf, baked sweet potatoes; poke salad with grilled mahi mahi, bell pepper, green onions, avocado, pineapple and sesame vinaigrette; chocolate pudding; hamburgers; spaghetti squash with venison spaghetti meat sauce.

What I ate last week in/from restaurants:

Thai curry noodles with chicken at CoreLife in Fairlawn; spanakopita at Countryside Farmer’s Market in Highland Square; steak sandwich at Dontino’s La Vita Gardens in Akron.


From Sandy D.:

My hummus recipe is similar to yours and I like it, but have you not heard of or tried gas station hummus? When I first heard about it I thought, “It’s hummus — how much better than mine can it be?” Well, I’m not sure what the magic is but holy smokes, it is the most creamy, smooth, flavorful stuff ever!

You can get it at the Sunoco station in Olmsted Falls at the corner of Columbia and Sprague Roads or the Sunoco in Willoughby at Lost Nation and Lakeshore Boulevard. Call ahead, though — it is so popular it sells out quickly.

As far as your list of questions, I can only answer one. I read a couple of food blogs each week on a regular basis, but there are many out there that are very run-of-the-mill. Seems they are more focused on being cute and stylish than offering me any helpful info about cooking.

At any rate, if you haven’t had gas station hummus yet, please try it. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Sandy, Sandy, Sandy:

Just the phrase “gas station hummus” sends me into paroxysms of rapture. Hummus from a gas station! I haven’t tasted it and already I’m a believer. I once had barbecued ribs at a gas station in Kansas City and the place is now on everybody’s “best ribs” list, so why not hummus?

It turns out that your gas station hummus has been an underground hit among Cleveland foodies for about a year. It is actually available at three gas stations — the two you mentioned and Ohio City Gas at Lorain Avenue and Fulton Road in the Ohio City area of Cleveland. Muntaha Dari makes the hummus at her gas station in Willoughby and her sister, Khalil, uses the same recipe at the station in Olmsted Falls that she owns with her parents. Their brother owns the Ohio City station, where the hummus is made by his wife, Nazek Allan, from a recipe taught to her by the Dari’s mother. I can’t wait to try it.

From Maryann:

How do you know if meat, chicken, seafood, etc., bought “unfrozen” in a grocery store hasn’t been previously frozen? Sometimes the package seems to have little crystals like just-thawed meat. Usually I repackage family-size items into smaller servings to freeze. Is it safe to do this even if I’m not sure if the item has been previously frozen in storage?

If a product label says “fresh” does it mean never frozen or just not frozen now? If I thaw something that I froze but change my mind about cooking it, can I refreeze it?

Dear Maryann:

If a food is labeled “fresh,” it means by law that it has never been frozen. But the government’s definition of “never frozen” is wacky. It allows processors and shippers to call a food “fresh” if it has been “hard chilled” to 27 degrees. To me, 27 degrees is frozen. A consumers’ group once protested the nonsensical rule by bowling “hard chilled” turkeys down the streets of Washington, D.C.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that if you see ice crystals in a food, it is safe to refreeze. Food safety experts tell us not to refreeze food that has been completely thawed, but frankly, I do it all the time. The safety folks are acting out of an abundance of caution. They fear that if your frozen food has been thawed, you may have allowed it to warm up past 40 degrees for two hours, the point and time at which bacteria can grow enough to hurt you. But if you have sense enough to keep your thawed food cold, you can safely refreeze it. Thawing and refreezing won’t do any favors for the texture or juiciness of the product, but it won’t kill you.







June 6, 2018

Dear friends,

With the price of hummus hovering at $5 for a little bitty saucer’s worth, I needed to make a change. First I found the same quality of hummus in the same amount (10 ounces) at Aldi for $1.99. But then I realized that it’s still just a handful of pureed beans. Why aren’t I making it myself?

I’ve made hummus in the past and many of you probably have, too. Why did we stop? At its most basic, it is merely chickpeas, tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. About 10 minutes in the kitchen gets you a velvety yet substantial dip that is low in carbohydrates and moderately rich in protein. How low, how rich? One-fourth cup of hummus has about 100 calories, 8.5 grams of carbohydrates and 4.8 grams of protein.

In this country hummus is considered a party or snack dip but that hasn’t stopped me from eating it for breakfast lately. I’m not alone, I discovered when I read a J.M. Hirsch article in Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street Magazine, which won the James Beard Award for dining and travel journalism this year. In Israel, Hirsch says, hummus is a breakfast food. Period.

“This is no tub of American grocery store hummus,” he writes. “It is light, ethereally smooth. The flavor is at once boldly nutty with tahini yet also subtle. None of the harsh garlic and lemon I expect. Is there even any garlic in it? Most shocking: It is deliciously warm. Who knew you could eat hummus warm?”

The hummus the writer learns to make in Jerusalem starts with dried chickpeas, cooked until soft and pureed with some of the cooking liquid while warm. Then tahini, lemon and salt are added. Nothing else.

Someday I may become a hummus purist and use dried chickpeas (the smaller the better), but for ease of preparation I’ll still mostly reach for canned. Although many American recipes suggest laboriously removing the skins from the cooked chickpeas, Hirsch’s Israeli version just processes the heck out of them — four minutes total.

Using warm chickpeas is essential, so I heated up my canned beans and liquid before processing. Then I added the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt. I like garlic, so sue me.

Olive oil is drizzled over the hummus after it is in the serving bowl.

You can see how Hirsch and the magazine staff make their hummus by Googling “JBF journalism nominees,” clicking on “Read All of the 2018 Journalism Nominees Here,” scrolling down to Hirsch’s hummus article and clicking on it. Sorry the process is so convoluted, but many of the nominated articles are no longer available to the public in any other way. Or could go directly to my streamlined, quick recipe for hummus.

Whichever version you prefer, remember it’s not just for parties anymore.



1 can (about 15 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

1/3 cup tahini (preferably imported)

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tsp. sea salt

2 tbsp. olive oil

Pour chickpeas and their liquid into a small saucepan and heat almost to a simmer. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid. Puree beans in a food processor for 2 minutes, until very smooth. Add tahini, lemon juice, garlic and sea salt. Puree 2 minutes longer. With the motor running, pour in the 1/4 cup cooking liquid and process until smooth and whipped. Pour into bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


What I cooked last week:

Summer rolls with shrimp, crispy rice sticks, carrot and cucumber slaw, crushed peanuts and fresh mint; grilled sausage links; a salad of grilled peaches, arugula, blue cheese and almonds; asparagus, walnut and feta salad; hot dogs over a campfire.

What I ate in/from restaurants last week:

A steak, sweet potato and arugula bowl from CoreLife in Fairlawn; half of a steak and arugula sandwich on a baguette from Panera Bread; two coney dogs with mustard and onion from Netty’s Famous Chili Dogs near Marblehead; scrambled eggs, bacon and toast at Big Boppers near Marblehead; a spinach, tomato and Swiss omelet at Big Boppers.


No letters, no Mailbag. So this week I will turn the tables and ask YOU a few questions that have been on my mind.

  • Why did my truffle oil lose its truffle aroma and flavor after a few months?
  • Why is some cornstarch pudding watery the next day?
  • Who buys all those jumbo and extra-large eggs in grocery stores, when every recipe I’ve ever seen calls for large?
  • How many food blogs do you read each week, and why did so many people suddenly decide to do my job? Everybody and their grandmother is a food writer now. I cannot keep up with the output of just Akron food bloggers, let alone a sampling of food blogs from elsewhere. Are there readers for these things?
  • Where is a good place to eat lunch in the Akron area, and what do you order?

* Why not drop me a line?